Why the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament could leave Cincinnati

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Great response from the first week of my three takes feature, which will include reader observations/analysis/news/comments throughout the week on Cincinnati.com. Email your questions and comments to jwilliams@enquirer.com. Let’s start week 2.

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UC Soccer:Bearcats end fall camp without announcing starting QB for Arkansas opener

1. Western & Southern Open: Where are you going?

The Western and Southern Open, which ended on Sunday, has a new out-of-town owner. The move is making some Greater Cincinnati influencers nervous about the long-term future of the W&S Open — and understandably so.

Outside ownership is always a threat when moving a business, professional sports franchise or event.

South Carolina billionaire Ben Navarro announced Aug. 12 that his Charleston-based company, Beemok Capital, had purchased the tournament from the US Tennis Association, which has a local group that runs the W&S Open.

Navarro did not do any media interviews to discuss his intentions for the W&S Open. His company did not return my email request requesting an interview with Navarro.

Speculation about the future of the W&S Open is raging in the tennis community, including that Navarro could move it to Charleston. He recently invested $50 million in renovating the Charleston Tennis Stadium, which Navarro owns in addition to the annual Charleston Open women’s tournament.

The W&S Open is one of nine men’s world tournaments in the ATP Masters 1000, considered just one step below Grand Slam events. The week-long W&S Open in Mason typically attracts around 200,000 fans from around the world. Fans from 30 countries bought tickets this year, tournament officials told me.

The tournament has been held in Greater Cincinnati since 1899, and it stinks to lose what some in the business community call our “fourth major league sport.” It’s a great people-watching event, attracting the best players in the world, said to have a regional economic impact of $70 million, and makes us unique in the sports landscape among peer cities.

The W&S Open is unlikely to be going anytime soon, based on conversations with tennis and business leaders. Logistically, it is difficult to quickly move an event that requires a large footprint. The W&S Open uses 90 acres for the Lindner Family Tennis Center and adjacent parking lot.

Western & Southern is contracted as title sponsor through 2024. W&S CEO John Barrett, a Cincinnati blueblood, will fight to keep the tournament here. The W&S Open lease expires at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in 2029. I wouldn’t be surprised if the tournament moved from Greater Cincinnati to Charleston or a larger market (Chicago?) within the next five years.

Would you be upset if the tournament left town?

2. Coming soon: the movie Riverfront Stadium

The walks will haunt, but the memories of the Riverfront Stadium (and its Jumbotron animation) never will.

Local filmmaker Cam Miller will present his latest project, “Riverfront Remembered,” at 7:05 p.m. on September 9 at the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum.

The 30-minute film about the former great riverside baseball stadium will be screened in the hall of fame theater. Miller, also a historian who works for the Reds HOF, will hold a Q&A and then lead a brief walking tour of former Riverfront Stadium scorers around The Banks.

Tickets are $10 and include a Dave Concepción figurine. To purchase tickets, go to MLB.tickets.com.

3. Cincinnati High School Football: Community Connector

I’ve found myself getting more and more excited for high school football season in recent years. I live in Wyoming and love going to Cowboys games. Why is that? My two sons are in primary school. I didn’t grow up here so I have no love or loyalty to Wyoming High.

As I sat in the home stands with my friends and family at Wyoming’s season opener on Friday, I realized why prep football is so important to the people of Greater Cincinnatians: It binds our communities like perhaps nothing else. It’s not unique to Greater Cincinnati or Ohio, but the Wyoming games have helped me strengthen relationships with my neighborhood friends.

We can’t wait to play at someone’s house before we walk to Bob Lewis Stadium together. It’s simple yet special, and it’s something I never experienced growing up on a farm in rural Southeast Ohio. My high school was 9 miles from my house.

Is your local high school football team also a community bond for you?

Contact sports columnist Jason Williams via email at jwilliams@enquirer.com and Twitter @jwilliamscincy.


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